Vendor makes tasty treats

Published 12:48 pm Saturday, October 27, 2012

Phyllis Gordon has been pleasing the palates of others for as long as she can remember.

“I have been canning ever since I was a little girl,” she said. “I helped my momma.”

Gordon cans a wide variety of jams, jellies, preserves, butters, relishes, chow chow, and pickles. What started out as a family task has now turned into a business for Gordon, one that has increased in demand over the years.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“It just got to the point where everybody was wanting more and more,” she said. “I’ve been selling them for 12 years.”

For those looking to savor her tasty vittles, she will be at this year’s Williams Station Day with a booth along South Pensacola Avenue. If her name seems unfamiliar, that’s probably because this will be her first year at Williams Station Day. However, Gordon has plenty of experience at previous arts and crafts shows.

“Usually, we do much better the second and third time we go to a place because people like to try something before they buy it,” she said. “I’m hoping maybe that will be wrong this time. Maybe we’ll sell out.”

While many store-bought jams and jellies use a wide variety of artificial ingredients, including sweetener high fructose corn syrup, and fruits grown in other parts of the country, Gordon takes pride in using all natural ingredients grown in the state of Alabama.

“It does not have all the additives, the preservatives,” she said. “Mine has strictly Alabama-grown products. Mine has more of the fruits and vegetables in it. I strictly use sugar.”

A 2010 study at Princeton University found a correlation between obesity and consumption of high fructose corn syrup even when caloric intake was identical.

Another key to Gordon’s products is she tries to make sure they are as fresh as possible.

“I do try to keep a lot of stuff fresh,” she said. “Once I sell down a case, I might make another case. I try just to make enough to last from season to season. I like it to be fresh.”

Gordon grows most of the ingredients herself. She turns to friends and relatives for the ingredients she isn’t able to grow herself.

Gordon said every festival she attends seems to bring a different result. Various items and flavors may be popular at one festival but may not sell at another festival. It’s also hard to know how much of each variety she will have from year to year.

“Some years you will have a good crop,” she said. “The next year you may not have anything.”

When Gordon isn’t working at festivals, she sells her canned products in a canning kitchen in her home. Gordon and her husband James added a 20 by 30 room in their house in order to be in compliance with Alabama health laws. She has a state of Alabama health permit, too. Unfortunately, she isn’t able to sell her products in grocery stores.

“I’ve had several inquiries and I’ve just had to tell them I’m sorry,” she said. “It would just be too costly to do that.”

The high price tag stems from the fact that in order to sell products in a grocery store, the products must be carefully analyzed in order to provide customers with nutritional information. While Gordon is unable to afford the cost of analysis, she lists all the ingredients on every product.

Gordon knows the difference between her products by heart. Jellies are made from the juice of the fruit, jams include parts of the fruit, preserves contain the most liquid, and butters are made from the pulp of the fruit before they go through a sieve and usually have added spices like cinnamon.

Among the varieties Gordon sells, one of the more unusual flavors is one called F.R.O.G. jam. F.R.O.G. is an acronym for the main ingredients in the jam: figs, raspberry Jell-O, oranges, and ginger.

The wide variety of jellies Gordon sells includes: apple, blueberry, crabapple, dewberry, fig, grape, mayhaw, muscadine, peach, pear, plum, pepper, quince, scuppernong, strawberry, and watermelon. She has more flavors for her jams and preserves.
Her chow chow, relishes, and pepper jellies come in three different varieties: sweet, warm and hot.

Gordon has shipped as far north as Michigan and as far west as Texas.

Her most memorable order came from former Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer’s secretary, who ordered six jars of pear butter one year. The next year, the order increased to one case of pear butter. This year, the order was two cases of pear butter.

Gordon will be at this year’s Williams Station Day being held today on South Pensacola Avenue.